- Despite a lack of starting pitching and a very rough stretch over the past month, the Orioles still view themselves as contenders, GM Dan Duquette tells FanRag’s Jon Heyman. “We have a number of players who are capable of playing better and contributing more to the 2017 team than they have to date,” says Duquette. “…They have all played to a much higher level than they have played at so far this season. We are still contenders and we look forward to these players contributing to the club.” Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman, Zach Britton, Mark Trumbo and Darren O’Day are among the rebound candidates listed by Duquette, whose Orioles are 13-28 in their past 41 games.
- The Orioles’ rotation remains a major question mark, with righty Chris Tillman now seemingly at risk of losing his spot. As Jon Meoli of the Baltimore Sun writes, team and player seem to be running out of ideas; Tillman has limped to a ghastly 8.39 ERA with just 5.9 K/9 against 5.0 BB/9 through 39 2/3 innings on the year since returning from injury. While manager Buck Showalter says he’s “hoping Chris can solve this as a starter,” he hinted that the patience is running thin while noting that Tillman is operating without “a lot of crispness” or “a real confident presentation” on the mound. While Tillman says he’s healthy, Meoli notes that he’s struggling to maintain his release point — with a velocity drop and command troubles on his secondary offerings seemingly resulting. All told, it’s a big problem for the O’s, who lack obvious internal solutions, and for the pending free agent.
- The Orioles announced that they’ve selected the contract of outfielder Craig Gentry from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned first baseman/outfielder David Washington back to Triple-A in his place. Closer Zach Britton was moved to the 60-day DL to clear a spot for Gentry, though that’s a procedural move and isn’t indicative of any type of setback for Britton. Gentry, 33, played in 33 games for the O’s earlier this season, though he served primarily as a bench option and totaled just 44 plate appearances. In that time, he posted a paltry .162/.256/.270 batting line with a homer and three steals. The fleet-footed Gentry has a long track record of playing quality defense and delivering strong value on the basepaths, but he hasn’t hit much since 2013. He was hitting .275/.345/.382 through 113 PAs in Norfolk.
- The Orioles don’t appear likely to welcome back infielder Ryan Flaherty any time soon, as Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports on Twitter. His balky shoulder didn’t respond well to an attempt to ramp up a throwing program, so the team will slow things down. Were it not for the injury, Flaherty would likely have represented part of the plan for dealing with the more recent DL placement of J.J. Hardy.
5:08pm: Janish will be promoted to take the open roster spot, per a club announcement.
2:27pm: Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy has been diagnosed with a fracture in his right wrist and won’t be able to resume baseball activities for four to six weeks, the Orioles announced to reporters (Twitter link via the Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli). Hardy won’t undergo surgery but will be in a soft cast for some time. He’ll need additional time to ramp back up after that initial four- to six-week healing period. Speculatively speaking, a late-July return seems like a best-case scenario, though his absence certainly could linger into August as well.
[Related: Updated Baltimore Orioles depth chart]
Hardy was struck on the wrist by a 93mph fastball from Lance Lynn over the weekend, and manager Buck Showalter told reporters yesterday that the prognosis was “not good” following initial x-rays. The O’s have Ruben Tejada on the roster as a backup, and he could conceivably step into the everyday shortstop role for the next several weeks. Veteran Paul Janish and the younger Luis Sardinas are both options to step into a utility slot if Tejada does take on a larger role with the O’s, though neither is on the 40-man roster.
Hardy joins fellow infielder Chris Davis on the sidelines for the foreseeable future, which should leave Baltimore with an infield of Trey Mancini, Jonathan Schoop, Tejada and Manny Machado for the time being.
From a bigger-picture perspective, the injury makes it an absolute lock that Hardy will not trigger his $14MM vesting option for the 2018 campaign. The 34-year-old was roughly on pace to reach the requisite 600 plate appearances he’d have needed to accumulate in order to lock in that salary, but the option will now be a $14MM club option with a $2MM buyout.
The Red Sox signed first baseman Mitch Moreland to a one-year, $5.5MM contract over the winter, passing on bigger names in the process, and it has worked out beautifully so far, observes Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Boston probably would have gone a more expensive route had it not been so close to the luxury-tax threshold, which may have also cost the team a first-round pick, writes MacPherson. To this point, Moreland has held his own relative to more expensive offseason signings such as Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Kendrys Morales, Jose Bautista and Carlos Beltran. Moreland, an ex-Ranger, has slashed .280/.373/.480 with nine home runs in his first 260 plate appearances with the Red Sox. What’s more, the 31-year-old has transferred his strong work in the field from Texas to Boston, having racked up three Defensive Runs Saved and notched a 2.4 UZR/150.
A couple more American League-related items…
- One of Moreland’s former teammates – free agent right-hander Colby Lewis – was unwilling to return to the Rangers on a minor league contract last offseason, and he explained why to T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. “I didn’t want to fight for a position,” Lewis said. “Here I am, I have been here forever. I’ll be 38 this season, you want to make me fight for a spot? It was a bitter pill to swallow and still is. I always wanted to wear this uniform, this is where I wanted to be.” Lewis, a Ranger from 2002-04 and 2010-16 who pitched to a 3.71 ERA/4.81 FIP in 116 1/3 innings last year, isn’t ready to call it a career. However, it doesn’t seem as if he’ll take a minors deal anywhere. While Lewis contends he’s only five to six weeks away from being major league ready, it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving him a guaranteed contract.
- Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy’s wrist is “not good” after he took a 93 mph Lance Lynn fastball off it Sunday, manager Buck Showalter told reporters (via Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com). “We took an X-ray here, saw something that concerned us,” continued Showalter. “I know he’s got a scan in the morning and we’ll have a little more definitive idea there.” It’s likely Hardy will head to the disabled list, per Kubatko, meaning the Orioles would have two regular infielders on the DL (first baseman Chris Davis is the other). Ruben Tejada, Paul Janish and Luis Sardinas are the in-house options to fill in for Hardy, notes Kubatko, though Tejada’s the only one on Baltimore’s 40-man roster. The 34-year-old Hardy isn’t exactly an irreplaceable cog at this stage of his career, evidenced by his .211/.248/.308 batting line in 239 plate appearances. The only qualified hitter with a worse wRC+ than Hardy’s (43) is Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar (19).
- Chris Davis’ oblique strain could keep him out of the Orioles’ lineup until after the All-Star break, writes Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun. This season’s break begins July 10. Davis reports improvement in the injury but says he’s still having trouble moving and sleeping. “I was basically told it’s sensitive,” says Davis. “It’s one of those things you don’t want to rush because if you have a setback, it makes things that much harder.” This isn’t Davis’ first oblique strain — he landed on the disabled list with one in 2014, although that one was on his left side, and his current injury is on his right.
The Orioles have placed first baseman Chris Davis on the 10-day DL, per a team announcement. He has been diagnosed with a right oblique strain.
[RELATED: Updated Orioles Depth Chart]
It isn’t clear just yet how long the O’s expect to go without Davis. But any time away could be problematic for a club that is desperately trying to pull out of a free-fall in the AL East standings.
Davis, 31, is leading the American League with 95 strikeouts (as he did in the prior two seasons). But he’s still producing at a solid .226/.320/.461 rate with 14 home runs through 250 plate appearances. That’s not close to the output the O’s are paying for, but the team’s replacement options don’t carry anything approaching his established ceiling at the major league level.
Washington will presumably see some time in the first base/DH mix, joining right-handed hitters Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo. The 26-year-old earned his first MLB call-up after slashing .291/.344/.517 over 221 plate appearances at Triple-A. Washington, a former Cardinals farmhand, joined the O’s on a minor-league deal over the winter.
Chris Davis is probably headed to the disabled list, Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters today (Twitter link via the Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli). Earlier in the day, Meoli reported that an MRI on Davis revealed what looks to be a strained oblique muscle, and Showalter confirmed that Davis does indeed have a Grade 1 strain. There’s no timeline for his recovery available just yet, but history suggests that even a Grade 1 oblique strain could sideline Davis for more than a month. David Hall of the Virginian Pilot reports (on Twitter) that slugger David Washington will join the Orioles in place of Davis. However, as MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko notes, rookie Trey Mancini could see the most significant uptick in playing time as he returns to his natural position of first base.
More on the O’s…
- The Orioles’ awful performance from their rotation has led to a 9-21 slide, dropping Baltimore to a half-game out of last place in the AL East, writes Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron. In that stretch, opponents have posted OBP and slugging marks that nearly mirror Miguel Sano’s current rates. Cameron examines Chris Tillman’s rapid drop in velocity and notes that colleague Jeff Sullivan recently profiled Tillman’s change in arm slot, suggesting that perhaps he’s not quite recovered from recent shoulder injuries. Kevin Gausman’s struggles are more troubling, Cameron continues, given the fact that his stuff appears similar to last year but the results aren’t there. The Orioles need to augment their rotation with multiple arms but have little in the way of minor league reinforcements, and Cameron wonders if that could push them to the trade market this summer. All of these rotation struggles come against the backdrop of a $165MM payroll club that will soon lose Manny Machado, Zach Britton and others to free agency.
- The Orioles weren’t expecting left-hander D.L. Hall to last until their No. 21 overall selection last night, scouting director Gary Rajsich told reporters on a conference call (link via MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski). Rajsich candidly stated that the Orioles “weren’t real thrilled with our options there” but became increasingly excited as the teams in front of them passed on Hall, whom they held in very high regard. “We project him to be a future starter in our rotation, and it shouldn’t take very long,” said Rajsich of Hall. Of course, Hall was taken out of Valdosta High School in Georgia, so Rajsich’s comment is presumably in reference to Hall’s proximity to the Majors relative to other prep arms. Even a fast-moving high school arm is likely to be several years from realistically sniffing the Majors, though Hall turns 19 in September, so he is a bit more physically advanced than some of his high school peers in the draft.
- Catcher Francisco Pena has cleared waivers and been sent outright to Triple-A Norfolk following his most recent DFA, per a club announcement from the Orioles. The 27-year-old has already been designated for assignment and outrighted once earlier this season, which afforded him the option to reject this assignment in favor of free agency. However, it appears that Pena will remain with the organization in hopes of securing another look in the Majors. A well-regarded defender, Pena has collected five hits (two homers) in 10 at-bats in the Majors this season. His 60 big league plate appearances haven’t been especially productive, though, and he’s had difficulty getting on base despite showing decent pop in his Triple-A career.